JOE BIDDLE: Alabama holds on to beat Manziel, Aggies

JOE BIDDLE: Alabama holds on to beat Manziel, Aggies (Image 1)

You have to give the devil his due.

Johnny Manziel may be Johnny Jackas$ off the field, but the Texas A&M maverick is a magician on the field.

But after putting up 628 yards of offense on Alabama's defense, Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies came up short as the top-ranked Tide rallied from a 14-0 deficit to hold on to a 49-42 road win in College Station. It marked the sixth straight SEC road win for Bama, and the 16th consecutive road win.

Many Games of the Millennium don't live up to expectations, but this one will go down in the books as a keeper.

Both teams finished with 31 first downs. Alabama had 568 yards of offense, the Aggies the eye-popping 628. It was the most points any team has ever scored on a Nick Saban coached team.

Manziel threw three touchdown passes in the final quarter, a 95-yarder to Mike Evans and 12 and 4 yard scores to Malcome Kennedy. Evans had a career day with seven receptions for 279 yards and a touchdown.

“In my eyes, Mike Evans is the best receiver in college football,'' Manziel said. “I see him every day. I see how he works against the defenders. He's amazing. A big guy like that who can really run and he gives it his all every game.''

The defending Heisman Trophy winner had a career day against the Tide. He was 28-of 39 for 464 yards that led to five touchdowns, two interceptions and a 74.0 quarterback rating. It was more feast than famine for Manziel, but he paid for his mistakes.

One interception was returned 73 yards by Vinnie Sunseri for an Alabama touchdown.

“I felt good with the matchups,'' Manziel said of the interceptions. “It was mostly miscommunication and that's on me. It's either our ball or nobody's. I know that and I know better than that. Those were big turning points in the game.''

Manziel even got a postgame handshake and congratulations from Saban. There was no word if Manziel promised the Alabama coach a future autograph.

If Alabama is the best college football team in the country, then the Aggies aren't far behind. Give the Crimson Tide credit. They usually rely on their defense. Saturday, it was the offense that led the way. Alabama did what it needed to do to return the favor from last season when the Aggies swaggered into the Capstone and upset Alabama.

While Manziel was darting and dashing all over the field, buying time to find receivers or take off running, Alabama had a balanced offense with 334 yards passing and 234 on the ground. If you want to point to one play that made the difference it came from the most unlikely of candidates.

A Manziel pass was tipped downfield and it ended up in the hands of Sunseri. He weaved his way downfield, getting solid blocks on the way and making some Aggies miss twice as he traveled 73 yards for a touchdown, the exact margin Alabama won by.

The Aggies game plan didn't surprise Saban.

“We knew how we were going to have to play them,'' Saban said. “We put our corners on an island on the outside. They made way too many plays. We didn't play the ball and made too many mistakes.''

Saban did find praise for quarterback A.J. McCarron and the offense. McCarron was a solid 20 for 29 for 334 yards, four touchdowns and a 93.8 quarterback rating.

“I thought the offensive line did a really good job of controlling the line of scrimmage,'' Saban said. “A.J. had time and made a lot of good throws.''

It could be a sign of the future, at least this season.

“I think that's going to be the key for us,'' Saban said of the offense. “I think we're going to have to be a good offensive football team this year.''

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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